“Someday, I want to be the adventure someone chooses.”
The words resonate in my heart, even though I’ve never quite thought of it like that. My friend is telling me that she has encouraged men she was interested in to pursue their dreams. Yet what she really wants is to be the adventure they choose to pursue. I hear her ache and I feel a similar one in my own heart.
We are millennials. In many ways, I do not believe I fit into my generation. However, in this regard, I do: I desire greatness. I do not mean that I long to be recognized or praised in front of all. Nor do I want empty words of admiration or platitudes repeated just to satisfy a longing to be great.
I want to contribute, in some meaningful way, to society. I want to leave an impression. I want to fill a need. I want to embrace adventure and travel and see new sights. I want to feel the exhilarating rush of being absolutely, irrevocably alive. I don’t want to do this by getting high, imbibing too much alcohol, or living a way that is less than I am. I want to live fully my humanity.
At times I feel like I haven’t done much in my twenty-something years of living. And by some standards, I haven’t.
-graduated from high school
-graduated from college (and completed English and Theology theses at 20 pages each)
-gone on three mission trips, leading one of them
-been a small part in saving at least one child from abortion during my time sidewalk counseling
-been a Confirmation sponsor for two people and godmother to two others
-been published in two newspapers and a college student publication
-traveled to: Mexico, Canada, Honduras, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Vatican City, and 32 of the states in the US
-successfully taught high school for 3.5 years
-walked El Camino de Santiago
Yet despite these “accomplishments” I am left longing for more adventures. Namely, the adventure of marriage and family. The person I immediately turn to when thinking of marriage as an adventure is the ever-endearing G.K. Chesterton.
The supreme adventure is being born. There we do walk suddenly into a splendid startling trap. There we do see something of which we have not dreamed before. Our father and mother do lie in wait for us and leap out on us, like brigands from a bush. Our uncle is a surprise. Our aunt is, in the beautiful common expression, a bolt from the blue. When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world that we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale.
So my dear Chesterton would tell me that I am already living the supreme adventure: I have been born into it. I would argue with him (since it is often my nature to be non-compliant) that my current life is not the familial adventure he speaks of since I am in the “in between” time. I have a house but it is rented. I live with friends and not a family of my own. It is good, but not what I long for. Perhaps he would agree with me in these points. In this hypothetical argument, he might remind me that marriage, for all my silly idealism, is not perfection. He might say this:
When we defend the family we do not mean it is always a peaceful family; when we maintain the thesis of marriage we do not mean that it is always a happy marriage. We mean that it is the theatre of the spiritual drama, the place where things happen, especially the things that matter. It is not so much the place where a man kills his wife as the place where he can take the equally sensational step of not killing his wife.
I remember the look of confusion and a bit of shock on my mom’s face when I read her that quote once. But isn’t it true? Sometimes the more sensational thing is two human beings, undeniably different even if undeniably in love, not killing each other. Clearly, Chesterton was a married man.
However, I do not wish to simply quote Chesterton all day, though I love his writings even if I haven’t read many of them. Rooted deep in the hearts of modern man, I believe, is the desire to give entirely of oneself, wholly and without reserve or end. This is the longing for marriage. The desire we have to be the adventure that someone else undertakes. What adventure (apart from that of pursuing God) could be greater than looking at another human being and saying, “You. I choose you and only you forever. I choose to journey through life with you, come what may. I choose your heart to pursue and cherish always. And I know time will change us. In ten years, you will not be the same person I married. But I will still choose you.”
It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word.
As much as this millennial longs to do all kinds of things and pursue all sorts of adventures (pilgrimage to the Holy Land, run a half marathon, go to jail for a night*, or fly a plane), I long for the simple adventure of a home and a family. In many ways, my desires are not so adventurous or dramatic after all. They are little things, daily things. The adventure of simply being the adventure.
The old-fashioned Englishman, like my father, sold houses for his living but filled his own house with his life.
*Naturally, when I say I wish to go to jail for a night, it is with the idea that I went standing up for something I deeply believe in.